Our search for a test-driving star continues

February 29, 2016

We are still on the hunt for a new motoring correspondent for Bankstone News.

Sadly, one of the potential candidates unveiled in a recent edition of our ever-popular newszine (see previous story) has opted to withdraw her candidacy following a regrettable incident in which she distractedly left the Godalming branch of popular grocery outlet Waitrose with a trolley-full of upmarket booze without paying, and was subsequently apprehended in the act of unloading its contents into the back of her racing green Landy by a highly officious and overzealous security person intent on misconstruing an entirely innocent act of mildly-inebriated mid-afternoon absent-mindedness as the act of a common criminal.

Two of the previously confirmed candidates are still in the race, however, while another three are revealed below. But it is still by no means too late, to propose your own candidature – or that of anyone else you may care to put forward (assuming some kind of consent – even if merely tacit, implicit or vaguely probable – on their part, of course).

And so to those new entrants to the fray to whom we alluded above.

Candidate 4: Richard Smyke-Bouverie, Stowe and Oxford educated chairman of city brokers Porter Jervis Fleshmast and president the Imperial Board of Sequesterers, Smyke Bouverie delegates actual driving duties to his chauffeur, but remains a keen judge of all things automotive.

Candidate 5: Carol Voldemort. What, the Carol Voldemort? No, a different one.

Candidate 6: Christopher Belgian, Bristol-based sales superhero Chris B is renowned throughout the South West for his terrifying predilection for pushing his motors to the very limit. And we’re not just talking about the speed limit! Although he will push them to that, obviously, and sometimes even ever so slightly beyond! 

Voting will begin, following a final recapitulation of the surviving candidates, in two weeks’ time.

So get those new entrants entered and it could soon be you (or A. N. Wilson of your choice) posting their unique and fascinating insights into one or more motor vehicles of Bankstone’s choosing.

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February 29, 2016

Former Tory cabinet member and occasional chairman of fashion house BIBA Lord Hunt of Squirrel claims to have been having a bit of chat with the BIBA troops and learned that they’re absolutely terrified at the potential prospect of Britain leaving the Europäische Union.

Asked whether he’d rather leave the EU or hurl himself headlong “into an abyss,” Lord H, says, Johnny Broker in the trenches would be hard pressed to choose. In the average broker’s humble workaday eyes, the two options add up to much the same thing, the peer reveals.

The vast majority of right-thinking brokers, he insists, know better than to defy David Cameron, the US, China, India, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth, the G20, the IMF, the UN, the Army, the Navy, the Air force, the City of London, all other cities where money is made, the Pope, God, and BIBA itself – simply for the sake of reaffirming some deluded and anachronistic idea of nation state sovereignty in a era of superglobalization.

Not content to rely on Britons’ reluctance to flirt with another decade of nostalgia-ridden make do and mend in the land of Downturn Abyss just for chance to tell sponging slave-wage immigrants and bloated Eurocrats where to get off, Lord Hunt loyally proclaims, albeit in somewhat unspecific terms, the manifold best-of-both-worlds benefits and “key concessions” won by DC with his radically renegotiated ‘special treatment’ deal for Britain within the EU.

Strangely, Hunt’s faithful recapitulation of the Cameron party line has met with a distinctly luke warm reception from BIBA rank and file.

“That’s complete b*llo*cks,” one broker told Bankstone News (although that may perhaps have been in reference to a different story – but it could have been about Lord H’s europhile panegyric).

Hunt’s claim that the “overwhelming majority of brokers I have spoken to want to remain in Europe,” another broker suggested, is merely indicative of a highly selective programme of broker consultation on the peer’s part.

His insistence that there would be no further opportunities to negotiate a better deal for Britain in Europe following a “leave’ vote (i.e. even better than the literally amazing benefits secured the other day by a sleep-deprived Davey C) was also cast in doubt by hard-bargain-driving wily old deal-doers among the BIBA ranks.

“There’s always a deal to be done,” one told Bankstone News reporters. “Europe needs us more than we need them. Britain is bigger and better than any number of Euro nations stuck together. Cut free of continental red tape, there’ll be nothing to stop us going on from strength to strength to total global domination.”

Do not expect a BIBA member Brexit poll any time soon!

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February 26, 2016

AXA’s UK CEO Paul “Physical Education” Evans is annoyed. He’s annoyed that UK insurance firms keep blaming their lacklustre results on the weather.

Why can’t other firms be more AXA’s UK division, he wants to know. Why is it that PE and AXAUK are left to bear alone the mantle of ‘uniquely’ managing to keep their combined operating ratio percentile score estimate (CORPSE) so comfortably below the magic 100% (at 97.1% in 2015 to be precise) despite being battered by all the gusty onslaughts of Desmond, Frank and Eva?

PE is, not to put too fine a point on it, just a little bit sick of windiness being cited by less special insurers as an excuse for simply not being up to the exceptional standards of underwriting excellence exemplified by AXAUK.

And he’s not the only one. AXA CEO Armand de Blanc, is also dismissive of weather-based whinging.

Weather, de Blanc points out, is simply a fact of life here in what actress Emma Thompson presumably now regrets affectionately underplaying as a cloud-bolted, rainy, misery-laden, grey old island.

“We live in Britain so there is always weather,” de Blanc explains.

“The key point,” Evans summarises, is that “when you look at the results, ours are outstanding.”

So come on, all you other insurers, stop bleating on about this storm or that storm and do some proper underwriting, like AXA does.

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Weather will be affecting all parts of the UK again today

February 26, 2016

It’s a dog eat doge world out their in insurunce land. Only the toughest of the trough, the fastest of the fat, the strongest of the string, can hop to survive the scurge of fraudulous claims.

But yellow insurance firm Uvavu has a powerful new ally in the fight against frud.

Who’s that, then, you may ass. Excellent questio! Unless Bankstone News has somehow got hold of the wrong end of the stuck, it is none other than former Gladiator Hunter.

Yorkshire-born Hunter, most feared of the legendary Lycrans, one-time (possibly more) lover of the TV Queen of Sweden, longtime luxury-locked defier of reseeding hairlines, is now apparently working as a “fraud detection tool”.

Uvavu’s Head of Freud, Tommy Gardener, claims Hunter has helped Uvavu identify over 2,000 attempted scamps relating to commercial meteor insurance polices and 11,000 doggy personal motor claims.

Hunter, Tommy G says, has helped Uvavu sea of clams worth literally millions of ponds. It works like thus. In his new role as a tool, Hunter is “screening all of [Uvavu’s] commercial and personal motor business”.

Thanks to Hunter’s Hawk-eyed ability to spot the tell-tail signs of up-to-no-goodness, the G man says, Uvavu is now in a position to start “slamming doors shut” on would-be fraudsters. Which sounds a bit harsh, but will certainly teach them a lesion they want soon forget.

Having Hunter on board will ennoble the insurer to protect “brokers and genuine customers”, keep premiums low for “innocent motorists” and, hopefully, put a smile on infesters’ faeces.

Sounds like a win, wine, win situation to Backstairs News!

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February 22, 2016

Following  complaints about the intellectually undemanding nature of recent Bankstone News competitions we have decided to come up with something that will challenge even the most brilliant of minds.

So, here’s your challenge. The first person to decode the following deeply cryptic picture clue type thing (and to email the correct solution to editor@bankstone-news.co.uk) wins a lifetime’s free subscription to Bankstone News, PLUS (if you’re really sure you’re ready for such a thing) a private one-on-one session with Bankstone head honcho Dixon Tripeshow in the sauna at the end of his garden.

But be warned: this prize will not be easily come by. Teasing out the incredibly obscure (and spiritually nourishing) message hidden in the images below will test your mental faculties to the very utmost!

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February 21, 2016

Specialist insurance broker Adrian Fax has noticed something odd about the ABI’s official list of professions against which motor insurance ratings may be calculated and which are used as the basis of many online quotation systems.

In fact, they’ve noticed quite a few odd things.

Not least the fact that obsolete occupations such as almoners, ostlers and agisters continue to feature, whilst contemporary professions such as vlogger, twitter ninja, SEO rockstar, social marketing maven, infographicist, tumblerazzo, and next gen e-vangelist are nowhere to be found.

What on earth is going on? Could it really be that the ABI has been caught out by the rapid rise of new professions (see above) and slow to register the decline of almoning, ostling, agisting and the like? It very possibly could, Dear Readers.

Maybe it’s partly that ABI statisticians are reluctant to jettison centuries of data on the claim making propensities of almoners, ostlers, agisters and the many other ancient professions still included among the 2,100 currently on the ABI’s list.

And, who knows, maybe if the oil runs out, or there’s a massive pandemic, nuclear holocaust, zombie apocalypse or whatever, we’ll once again need up to date data on ostlers (people who provide hospitality services for horses), agisters (people who take in other people’s animals and feed them for a fee), and almoners (people who distribute nuts on special occasions and public holidays).

In the meantime, however, the ABI clearly needs to bring itself up to date and add several hundred new varieties of (mostly internet-related) role to its list. What, after all, could be more inappropriate than rating a vlogger like a blogger, a infographicist like an old school graphic designer, a buzzfeeder like a journalist!

It’s exactly this sort of thing that really gets the goat of social media manager Damien Cross, quoted in a press release issued by Hadrian Flex, who demands to know whether “a bank clerk would be happy to describe him or herself as a shop assistant?”

Happily for Mr Cross and fellow members of the social media managing fraternity, Adrain Flax have added a whole bunch of new roles to their quotation system, so Damien’s days of being lumped in with regular marketing people (who’d want to be tarred with that revolting old brush!) are at an end.

Other weird professions still lurking on the ABI list include:

Sumner, an exponent of tantric lute playing
Lector, a person who reads things written on paper (usually aloud, occasionally with an unsettling “wine-tasting noise” thrown in for effect)
Diggler, a swordsman
Salinger, a kind of hermit, originally one dwelling in the salt caves of the Seine Maritime region of North West France, and
Thatcher, a person who brings harmony where there is discord.

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The Wessex Almoner at work

 

February 19, 2016

Worrying reports have been coming in to the Bankstone News Newsdesk of insurers being beaten up by governments and regulators. These brutal and gratuitous attacks seem all the more disturbing when you reflect that all insurers have ever wanted to do is make people happy, a joy-bringing mission on which, ironically, according to Consumer Intelligence chief Ian Huge, they have recently been achieving an exceptional level of success (see below)!

Is there no justice? No gratitude? No single tiny shred of common decency left to edify this vicious world? Apparently not.

“Motor insurers are making consumers happy” reports Insurance Tights this week, as it exclusively showcases definitive new NIPS statistics produced by Mr Huge’s Consumer Intelligence Company. So why on earth would governments and regulators attack the very people to whom consumers up and down the land owe their current high spirits? How can that make sense? Luckily, Huge has some practical suggestions on how motor insurers can stop themselves getting beaten up.

Insurers, he urges, “should be really rattling the cages” (They’re in cages, for Goodness’ sake!); they should be saying something like ““Look, stop beating us up, we are actually doing a great job.” There are plenty of other people out there causing far more consumer harm and distress than insurers, Huge confirms, and he has the NIPS stats to prove it.

And, what’s more, motor insurers’ happiness inducing powers are building strongly right now. They scored a mighty 6.3 NIPS in 2015 compared with a relatively modest 3.4 NIPS the year before. Huge says insurance customers are already spending less time shopping around and their “satisfaction is going up.” So, come on, Government, give motor insurers some credit and stop beating them up or trying to shoot then or whatever.

Wasn’t it, after all, the same Prime Minister Dave “Big Society” Cameron who spent all that time early doors banging on about how he wanted to make everyone happy? So stop the beating, Dave and give this beleaguered industry a break!

Consumers are quite happy enough already, Huge argues, going on to suggest that perhaps industry bodies like “Biba, the ABI or CII” could do something about getting the industry “out of the cross hairs of the government and the regulators”.

How about it, Bodies?

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February 19, 2016

The idea that either local or indeed central government can any longer afford the extravagance of maintaining and repairing Britain’s road network is clearly fanciful.

If we are ever to get this nation’s finances back on track after the mess the last Labour government and their pals in other governments and regulatory bodies around the world got us into, Britain’s roads must clearly be allowed to return to the pre-industrial condition that served us all perfectly well through hundreds, nay thousands, of years of this glorious nation’s proud history.

Britons cannot expect to glide around on silky smooth tarmac wherever they go. We must all buy decent off-road (there’s a distinction that won’t be worth making for very much longer) 4×4 type vehicles or, better still, tractors. Flat roads are an unaffordable luxury we will soon learn to do without. Potholes are the future.

An ever proliferating multitude of them are currently keeping Britain’s fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh emergency services extremely busy, with the RAC alone turning out to 25,000 pothole-related breakdown in 2015 (25% up on the already impressive figure recorded in 2014). A nuisance for ordinary motorists. Boom times for sellers and fitters of tyres and wheels.

To help us all through the interim years, while whole sections of tarmac remain substantially and indeed tantalisingly intact, motor manufacturer Fnord is putting considerable effort into technology designed to give ordinary motor cars a fighting chance of surviving the world’s steadily deteriorating and increasingly scarred and pitted highways.

At a special top secret research location, Fjord has created a dedicated 1.2 mile stretch of road that is – quite deliberately – even more uneven than the average British road. Ford’s road surface researchers have quite literally scoured the globe to find the very rubbishest roads available to humanity.

These it has lovingly recreated at the aforementioned top secret location (a location located, almost inevitably, in Belgium – in a place called Lommel – although we probably shouldn’t be telling you that – given that is a secret and all that).

The sh*te road surfaces brought together at Lommel include, according to Fnord bloke Eric Jam Charlies, everything from “a rutted traffic junction from China to a bumpy German side-street,” littered with additional hazards from locally sourced granite blocks, from Belgium (obviously), to cobbles from Gay Paris.

It is, in fact, nothing short, as Eric Jam says, of a regular “rogues’ gallery of the most bruising surfaces our customers might encounter,” with more than 100 hand-picked hazards from 25 countries worldwide.

What this “scary” road allows Fort to do is test out stuff like wheels and tyres and chassis and suspension systems – by forcing some poor b*stard to drive up and down the 1.2 mile ‘road to ruin’ over and over again at terrifying speeds of up to 50mph.

The latest hi-tech adaptation brought in by Ford is something called Continuous Control Dumping with pothole mitigation technology.

Yes, that does sound very exciting. No, we can’t be bothered to tell you (or indeed to find out) what it means. But basically it’s just one of what Mr Charlies describes as “a range of advanced driver aids and design modifications to help continually improve the safety and robustness of our vehicles.”

And if that doesn’t enable us to take those p-holes in our stride, we can all fit tank tracks in place of wheels. Armed with kit like that, we can laugh in the face of pothollery.

Until, that is, our facial muscles tire, we forget what was so funny in the first place, we start feeling self-conscious, or it simply gets boring.

pothole-fixing

February 15, 2016

Your vote counts! Obviously not in general elections, where you are highly unlikely to be one of the tiny minority of people living in a constituency so finely balanced that it might actually make a jot of difference which box you tick.

So, obviously, not there, but in an exciting new ballot to select from among no fewer than three rival candidates for the position of Bankstone News’ resident motoring correspondent following the unfortunate (and hopefully temporary) disappearance of Davey Sim, last seen running amok in Eastbourne astride a Go-Go Elite Traveller 4.

Odds are you’ll be the only b*gger bothers voting and will hence be able to look back one day with pride, shame or other appropriate emotion and declare “That [insert name of successful candidate], they’d be nobody without me. I put them where they are today, and what thanks have I ever had?!”

So who have we got for you to choose between.

Candidate 1: Steve “Rooster” Cockerel, a no-nonsense hard-driving Brummie with a passion for kebabs, Aston Villa, and other lost causes.

Candidate 2: Cordelia Battington, tough-talking privately educated shopaholic, scourge of shoddy service, impertinent menials, and all things common.  

Candidate 3: Dennis Ardle, dour sociopath with an implacable contempt for all things unimpressive, an extremely broad category in Dennis’ estimation.

Frankly, they all sound more or less ideal for the coveted Bankstone News Motoring Correspondent role. Any one of them would probably be fine. But, just to make things unnecessarily complicated, we are throwing the ring open to any other potential candidates who would like to launch their headgear in its general direction.

Would you like to drive some random ropey old heap around a bit every couple of months and write up your experiences? Then, simply add your name to the list and vote for yourself!

Know someone else who’d fit the bill, and about whose exposure to potentially perilous on-road situations you are broadly unconcerned? Tell us who you’re thinking of, and vote for them. It really is that simple!

The judges’ decision will be final. No correspondence will be entered into. You may only vote once (unless you assume an alias or something).

May the best person win.

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February 15, 2016

In June 2010 Capita (a firm that provides administration and business support, business process outsourcing, consultancy and change management, customer management, debt and legal, financial, HR and recruitment, information technology, insurance, legal process outsourcing, life and pensions, property and infrastructure, remediation, service design, software solutions and travel and events services to clients in sectors including banking, central government, defence, education, emergency services, financial services, health, housing, insurance, local government, life and pensions, police and justice, retail, telecoms and media, transport, travel, leisure and utilities) bought Premier Medical Group (PMS) for £60m. Over Christmas and the new year, Capita (see above) sold most of the rechristened Capita Medical Reporting back to its original owner Dr Harry Brünjes.

Why would they do that? Naturally, Bankstone News hasn’t the faintest idea. But it’s probably just one of those cyclical things where a large organisation decides one day to broaden and deepen its expertise and resources in something or other and then decides after a bit that it would actually prefer to focus on core areas and stuff that will play a key role in its future strategy or some such. Or perhaps it was simply that PMS/CMR, or whatever you want to call it, was – like the bow of Odysseus, the lyre of Orpheus, or the Sooty of Harry (no H) Corbett – never quite the same without its original owner. At any rate, the inimitable Dr Prunes is back at the helm, cue much rejoicing up and down the land, not least in charming Shropshire market town Ludlow, where even the local MP has publicly welcomed both the returning hero and the appetising aroma of new local employment opportunities conjured up by “plans for expansion and the return of some business activities to Ludlow.”

Attentive readers of Bankstone News will already have gathered some impression of the scope and seriousness of Dr Brünjes’ track record. This, you may recall, is a man with several illustrious medical careers to his credit, a man, equally, who is physically incapable of walking past a piano without pausing to knock out a couple of tunes, a man, also, with a notorious theatrical penchant for dissecting fellow members of the medical profession (but only, like US TV’s loveable psychopathic murder-torturer Dexter, the bad ones), a man who now, much to everyone’s relief, leaps back aboard the good ship CMR/PMS like Cap’n Jack Sparrow liberating the impounded Black Pearl, with a lusty cry of ‘Ahoy, there, Me Hearties. Splice the mainbrace and break out the ivories!’ and with trusty lieutenants Mark “the Lash” Stirrup and Black Bob Goodall at his side.

Welcome back Harry, we say here, at Bankstone News. Your strategy of focussing “on medical excellence, service quality and business process efficiency” might sound dangerously radical, but we’ve every confidence you and your ‘reinvigorated management team’ can pull it off.

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